Petit Fours: a Sydney food blog


Petit Fours: a Sydney food blog


Petit Fours: a Sydney food blog

Thursday, 27 October 2011

Quay Hat's Off - Sous Step Up, The Rocks

Some people like to spend their money on clothes, others on the latest Apple gear or rarely used gym memberships. Well I like to spend my money on food and that's exactly what I did on my final day of uni this year. The final few days before October foodie month finishes, I was pretty excited to hear a confirmation call a week before the Hat's off dinner after spending the entire month feeling disappointed over mistakenly believing I didn't get the reservation in on time. Seriously, Quay books out.

Peach Bellini
My good friend A and I came out to a moody and windy Spring day in Circular Quay. She's being dying to cure her Quay itch ever since the infamous snow egg and it made for easy convincing to the dinner event. Credit goes to her tonight for the pictures. Being seated down, I realised I didn't exactly get the table in the tower I asked for. There is something awfully fishy about that. You should definitely be allowed to ask for your table. However I don't think you can really get a "bad" view with a location such as Quay's so that was alright. There wasn't anything particularly exciting about the decor, just strong colours of purple and brown. What was interesting was the many many mirrors which really accented the view. It was advertised as a 6 course for $160 but ended up being an 8 courser on the night which still made my wallet cry a little but was a pleasant surprise. Our waitress repeatedly reminded us of the exciting night that would eventually unfold.

Parfait with Brioche
We first started off with a plate of chicken liver parfait and a brioche to share and I actually thought that this was Quay's twist on the usual bread and butter for a moment. I would of been happy with this. Some might think it's stingy, but I think the invitation to share dishes with your dinner friends breaks down the social barriers that fine dining usually imposes and it was a great way to start the night. The freshly baked mini brioche was incredibly buttery and in my friend A's words, better than a really good croissant. It may of been just me, but I think that chicken liver imparts a much more lighter and pleasant flavour than pork. The parfait was wonderfully rich and surprisingly didn't have that metallic taste. The accompanying pickled ginger salad and fresh herbs weren't overpowering at all and provided a nice acidity and freshness to cut through the parfait. As evident from my numerous brioche flakes on the table after I was finished, the dish was so good it made me appear like a savage.

After we finished the dish, the roof oddly started leaking onto our table. 3 chef hat restaurant right there. But the waiters were incredibly apologetic and after moving us to a comfier table, all was forgiven.

But hey, then came the actual bread and butter. The serving of bread was a bit stingy, but good things come in small packages. The bread was wonderfully nutty and I looked onto the butter, bemused at the perfectly quinelled roll of easily spreadable butter.
Young beetroot, warm goat's curd,
prune, licorice and spelt

Favourite dish of the night for A, she could just not figure out why she liked it so much. I, myself, did find much of the appeal from the overall earthiness. The goat's curd was enticingly aerated and light and didn't have an overpowering cheesy flavour. The beetroot and prune were incredibly juicy. Not a big fan of licorice but the hits of licorice were bearable and even necessary to accentuate the interesting earthy marriage of beetroot and goat's curd.

A Trip to Tokyo
Dashi custard, squid, yuzu, roasted rice, smoked eel broth
Wow just wow. Wow wow wow. This dish was brilliantly executed. I'm gonna say it right now. My favourite savoury dish of the night. An intense broth was poured out from a cool glass teapot on top of the dish giving out mouthwatering aromas of eel with a subtle mysterious smokiness. The dashi custard underneath was soft and yielding and gave out a faint and delicate dashi flavour. But the star of this dish was undeniably the squid. It would of needed a master magician behind the kitchens to get squid that thin. What resulted was slice after slice of impossibly tender ribbons of fresh squid. It was so good, I even attempted to be civilized for once and eat it slowly in hopes of prolonging this wonderful joy. To balance out this rave though, I thought the sliced radishes, though attractive on the dish, overpowered the delicate flavours with its strong rawness and sharp bite. Also the roasted rice kept getting stuck in my teeth. But they weren't enough to overshadow the dish, a truly marvelous display of culinary genius showcasing quintessential fresh Japanese flavours.

Smoked rainbow trout,
rye, watercress, Jerusalem artichoke, horseradish curd
Yeah see, I didn't realise there were decorative cracks on the dish until I revisited the pictures. Moody lighting does that. The trout was wonderfully cooked, cooked to the point of flaking, yet still retaining a sashimi like quality. The fish crackling added an interesting texture. I love the addition of horseradish curd, you first get that creaminess and then that little kick of horseradish hit in the end.
Wild hare, rose, white asparagus
If there was a night to try new things, this would be it. The wild hare was lusciously fall off the bone and had a nice gamey flavour, the rose provided an unusual yet somewhat pleasant texture and scent and white asparagus was delicate and sweet and also provided a nice texture. But... the jus underneath was incredibly heavy handed in saltage and I found it immensely overpowering. Because of that, it wasn't a huge winner for me.

Over the Hump
48 hr braised Brahman hump, grilled cabbage, warm truffle vinaigrette
At first I was thinking... two days ?!?! Wowee. It smelt marvellous, with the subtle earthy aromas of truffle. But in all honestly, I was quite disappointed with this dish. We were advised by the waitress that the meat would be so soft you could just use your spoon to pull apart the meat. That didn't seem to be the case and I ended up reverting back to my trusty knife and fork. Don't get me wrong, the meat was some what tender, but after 2 days I was expecting a bit more. It was really interesting being served hump and we were told it was the hump from a Brahman cow flown all the way from Queensland and when I asked the sommelier passing by what he thought of it, he said it was very marbled. That partially seemed to be the case however some cubes were intensely marbled while other parts were just dry. The salting here was again very heavy handed and the bacon didn't do much to alleviate it and that was what overwhelmed the undetectable truffle flavour.
Mandarin dessert
Okay, okay, okay, by now it may of seemed that the over seasoned mains brought down the great dinner that the entrees had achieved but I couldn't be more wrong. By 8.00, I had relinquished all hope of getting home on time but that seemed alright and forgotten with this dessert. I just realised that sentence is an understatement. This dish was mind-numbingly PHENOMENAL. Bloody brilliant. I don't know. It was just so indescribably good. If your looking at the dish description titled 'mandarin dessert' like I am, then your thinking it sounds boring. Wait what? Just mandarin? That's what it read on the menu. I don't even like mandarin that much. Actually i'm impartial but it wouldn't be the first fruit I'd choose as my favourites.

A melt in your mouth meringue roll housed a smooth and intensely concentrated mandarin sorbet. The meringue was impossibly light and seemed to just disintegrate on your tongue leaving nothing but a gentle sweetness. Underneath that was what seemed to be a gorgeous and unbelievably soft pannacotta thingy. This sat on top of a pool of nicely tart mandarin sauce to combine the components with an even more acidic mandarin flakes. Seriously, I have never tasted mandarin that sour but it worked perfectly to counter the sweetness. The jelly on the end was deceptively heavy in mandarin in flavour. To round it all out, a line of mandarin snow reinforced the seasonality and freshness of spring and was finished by a vibrantly yellow pansy.

It's hard to compare between this dish and the guava snow egg I had last year. The appeal of the snow egg to me was its deceptively simplistic use of one star ingredient to create such a beautiful and harmonious snow egg dish while the appeal of this dish was the complexity and ability for many unique components, textures and flavours possible from the one ingredient. It's made me reconsider what my favourite sort of flavours are because I am usually a big fan of bitter and rich flavours like chocolate. I'm gonna stop rambling now.

Blackcurrant Bush
How this dish was served to us was first in a bowl with only the cream and 'antlers', then with the blackcurrant sauce poured in front of us from a Chinese pot. We were then invited to grab a few brioche bits from the basket and crumb them on top. I reckon this sort of presentation at your tables invites a sense of interactivity with the diner and chef and really breaks down the boundaries between the two. You really feel excited after the fun of crumbing your brioche in, sticky, buttery fingers and all. The blackcurrant custard was incredibly intense in berry flavour. I would of thought the brioche biscuits would be too hard when eaten but the custard really softened it down and you get this really nice semi crunchy texture. I love the mixture between hot brioche and blackcurrant sauce and the cold wonderfully dense cream, it really plays with your mind and it's such a delight. Due to the flavours and the aforementioned antlers, this dish reminded me of Christmas.

Petit Fours
Hazelnut and chocolate friands and Italian meringue petit fours finished off the night. The Italian meringue was by far my favourite petit four bite this year. A caramelised meringue housed a white chocolate sphere which had a lightly flavoured passionfruit cream inside. The friand was quite nice as well.

You really get a sense of Quay's philosophy through their food and environment. Texture and inspiration through nature. It's prevalent with: its presentation- an almost Japanese sense of presentation with it's pristine, colourful yet simple arrangement of food and use of flowers as garnish and it's immense respect for the textures and subtlety of flavours of ingredients. With each mouthful, your biting into something different and exciting. The dark and moody lighting was, in reference to my advanced English years (see I did learn something), a double edged sword. With such beautiful food and interesting crockery, you need clear lighting to fully appreciate it. But as the night dragged out, I really believed it was absolutely essential to create that "Quay" intimate ambiance. In contrast to my previous visit to the restaurant, the staff were much more loose and jovial. Our waitress for the night was wonderfully informative and conversational without being intrusive and was so good, we were fretting over not having enough money to tip her.

Despite the energetic night that Hat's Off is with the booze seemingly free flowing inspiring a particularly rowdy group of diners opposite, Quay to me is the sort of place that time grinds down to an immeasurable halt. The outside world and all technologies lay forgotten and irrelevant to me while I was in there and seemingly miles away. The feeling of watching the ferries cruise away from the harbor and docking in, to the almost therapeutic bobbing of waves and watching the Opera house stand proud and tall, lights and all, against the dark night sky is indescribable. Some dishes were a miss, but others were spectacular and when you considered that this is the first time these dishes have been cooked, you begin to appreciate the versatility of the chefs behind Quay. To the sous chef that prepared both of my favourite dishes of the night (the squid and mandarin), Analiese Gregory- my hat's off to you. Quay was truly magical.

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No, we aren't the most amazing gastronomes or chefs. Heck, half our team doesn't even know how to cook... well. However, what we really love is eating. And lots of it. We enjoy that occasional freebie, filling up that craving for a midnight snack and finding a 20 in our pockets that we thought we never had, and using that as an excuse to go out eating. As we battle the ongoing war on uni student poverty, we'll bring you the most swoon worthy recounts of our latest foodie adventures.

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